I Can\’t Say I Learned Anything…….

I Can\’t Say I Learned Anything…….

July 24, 2013 Time: -3 on GMT

And the tag line is!…. \”but it certainly has been an education!\” (Groucho Marx)

Georgetown… We\’d heard it wasn\’t safe, but the architecture is interesting. That should have been my first and only necessary clue.
After motoring in for 12 miles, we quickly discovered why this is not a cruising haven! There is no place to really feel safe at anchorage next to the fishing fleet, the big
cargo ships and the derelict vessels. There is no place to dinghy ashore that didn\’t look like a twisted metal structure or a junk yard. AND, how we would have gotten to town (1/2 mile away at the closest) would have been beyond problematic. Put this on top of the \”don\’t go here and don\’t go there\’s\” we\’d been told about because it isn\’t safe and we decided to just move on. Despite our disappointment, we figured we had enough light left to make it into the Essequibo River about 25 miles away. It\’s only 10 miles away in a straight line, but you can\’t do that. The water is between 2-10 feet deep for MILES! We figured a route and made to the first anchorage at \”Rode N Rust\”.

Again, the name should have told us something. We actually moved further up stream and just dropped the hook behind a nice lush tropical island just before dark. The current had given us a nice push, so we were able to get 1/2 way to Bartica; our planned destination. Bartica, the guide told us, is the tourist Mecca of Guyana. Your jumping off place to eco-tourism adventure and a nice little gold mining town. Ummmm….

The next morning, we got up early and now had a head current, so it took us 4 1/2 hours to do the last 21 miles. Also, the river is NOT straight forward as to navigation and we used the guides way points as a reference, but I chose to use our lovely electronic chart and stay in the marked deeper water.

We arrived after a lovely \”Jungle Cruise\” up to the confluence of the Essequibo and the Mazaruni Rivers where the humble little ciuadad of Bartica is. On distant view, it seemed there were indeed possibilities. Once we got closer, we saw a small boat we\’d seen in Simon\’s Town, SA. S/V \”Passat\” had no one aboard to give us any lay of the land, so we ventured ashore to check it out…. OMG! First, getting ashore was a problem. We were told we could use a dinghy type dock but the ladder system was literally falling apart. This would be indicative of the entire town. All I can say is neither Nikki or I felt that we were not being watched constantly. Very crowded, people mostly not very friendly or helpful.

There were security guards everywhere. I grabbed 20,000 Guyanan Dollars from a well guarded ATM (about 100 USD) and looked for the local fuel station. Nikki found some nice fruit and veg in the local open air market and shortly thereafter we headed for the boat. I wanted to get just enough fuel to replace the two river trips, so I brought 4 – 5 Gallon (20 liter) jerry cans ashore to what appeared to be a fuel dock. It was, but 20 feet up in the air for larger vessels and then – only gasoline. We walked the 75 yards to the station on the main road in the pouring afternoon thunder shower. Are we having fun yet!..:-)

After getting the fuel with my remaining 18,000 Guyanan Dollars plus $7 USD they were glad to take, we got some help bringing it back to the dinghy. Believe me, with the danger of their steps, it was an adventure loading it and us into the dinghy. Add three knots of current and pouring rain and there you have it. Are we having fun yet?….:-)

Soon after we got back to the boat, the crew of \”Passat\” showed up in the pouring rain. We told them we thought we\’d be leaving in the morning and we felt a bit \”marketed\” by the guide book. Clearly, whatever tourist infrastructure they\’d planned 6 years ago when the guide was written, was quickly forgotten.

Meg and Bob from \”Passat\” tried to cajole us into staying a few days. I asked what was the appeal? Meg said, \”The beers are cheap, the Chinese food was only $3.00 USD/plate and the people were friendly\”. Okay, I\’d already found out the people were some of the least friendly I\’ve experienced cruising and I don\’t drink beer. I asked if the town were nicer AWAY from the waterfront? Meg said, \”no\”. I guess misery loves company. I\’d already had enough, so had Nikki.

This morning, we tried to say goodbye to \”Passat\” and wish them well. They were asleep and we didn\’t want to wake them. They\’ve been there for 5 days, but I just can\’t see why? The town had open rubbish pits, twisted steel rebar, broken power lines and the open pit sewer was the clincher. Oh, and that was next to one of the open air markets.

We departed and did indeed again have a lovely \”Jungle Cruise\”. There are some very nice looking, well kept houses and mini resorts along the way. As it is low season, the resorts seemed to be closed up. The other feature of the \”Jungle River Cruise\” were the fisherman. These are the type who in several sets, lay nets across the navigation channel for a hundred yards or more. This is a constant danger for us as to get our props stuck in their nets or lines would be a mini disaster. Fortunately, in the six we passed, all the fisherman were on watch and helped escort us around their nets. They were all well marked at either end as well. A few times we had to go into water as shallow as 6.5 feet to get around them and the depths at the bar at low tide were 7-9 feet for 4 miles! No worries, \”Miss Piggy\” knows how to pick up here skirts when needed; no problems were encountered. The last maze to get through was the \”fish stix\”. These are poles stuck in shallow water with lines, nets and pens to attract and capture fish. The interesting thing here is that they stretched for 5 miles across the entrance to the river. Add the shallow water, dodging in and out and you can see, we did indeed have an adventure.

The rain forests of Guyana are supposed to be some of the least explored and pristine. However, should you ever be tempted, come by air and stay in a nice lodge.
The \”Mosquito Coast\” (French Guyana, Suriname and Guyana) are not what I expected from a boating stand point of view. It is now clear why there are no rave reviews about cruising here. French Guyana had the Korou Space Center and Devil\’s Island, but none of these countries have any real marine facilities for small boats. What French Guyana had would have been condemned in a first world country. We\’re anxious to hear on the radio this evening what our friends on s/v \”This Side Up\” think of Paramaribo, Suriname where they entered this morning.

Whew!.. As you can see, it\’s not all paradise out here. They don\’t call this the \”Mosquito Coast\” for no reason. Yellow Fever is endemic in the three countries (yes we were vaccinated in Cape Town) and it\’s some of the higher \”mozzy\” counts I\’ve seen.

Despite ALL the foregoing, I\’m glad we did it and as Nikki says, \”We won\’t die not knowing\”…:-)

So I guess we did indeed learn something and it WAS an education….
We\’re en route to Tobago and should be there Friday or Saturday. Warm, CLEAR water should be plentiful and Tobago has an excellent reputation in the cruising world. We\’ll let you know…:-)

Scott and Nikki